The past few nights I’ve been picturing myself standing on the Kjerag boulder and dying. There were a few options of how exactly I would die:
1. The classic ‘Lauren’ – trip on my shoelace, stumble, die.
2. Slipping on the rock, and holding on to the edge of the boulder for dear life, Craig comes to save me and we both fall to an instant death.
3. I fall, but there’s a chance I might survive if I maximise my surface area, then pirouette into a pin shape, thus entering the water feet first without concrete style impact.
Then as I really struggled to sleep I started finding it hard to separate dreams from reality, and began envisioning myself just jumping off for no particular reason, just an odd urge to jump.
Finally we woke to no rain (but midges instead) and the sun was out for the hike that I’ve been really excited about. I saw the photo of Kjerag boulder when I was researching this road trip and said that we had to go there and stand on it. There was a shot of a man staring down from the rock and another with a sheep on it, clearly I could do it.
The drive to the start of the hike at Oygardstol was nothing short of spectacular, beautiful lakes and mountains as far as the eye could see, and snow still lurking in the shadows. As we reached the summit of the road, all the rocky terrain was polka dot with stone cairns, it had a certain Blaire Witch feel to it.
The trail starts from a cafe, about 6km from Lysebotn and 20+ hairpin turns down to sea level. Much to our dislike the car park charged £10!! Absolutely extortionate! Thankfully it seems most people get the ferry here, drive up and park, but we came the opposite way and spotted 3 parking spaces further up, so we turned back and took the last remaining spot, for free.
It was a tough hike, involving 3 steep climbs that had chains lining the way for you to pull yourself up, or down – which was a bit like abseiling. Eventually we got to a huge area of snow, with a melting crevice to our right, and straight ahead was the boulder. Craig saw it first and said “it’s massive Lauren, piece of piss” so now I was hyping myself up to actually do it. But then I saw it in person, Craig took back his first opinion, and I said “it’s tiny!! It’s smaller than in the photos, I don’t think I can do it!!”.
The boulder was lodged between two sheer rock walls and below the rock was a 1000m drop down, much to my dismay it dropped to land, not water, so I was guaranteed death if I fell. There was a large flat rock to the left of the boulder where everyone sat and ate their lunch. The walls dropped down from the edges and looked out over the beautiful blue water of Lysefjord, and higher sheer walls were on either side of us.
We decided to have lunch, and see if anyone stands on the boulder. It took a while but eventually a girl gave it a go, so I went to the best viewing area on a slanted snowy slope and watched in horror at how difficult she made if look. First a foot appeared, then a hand, then an attempted lunge over, where she sort of shuffled along and sat awkwardly for a photo, then I watched her struggle back over to safety. So now I was more like “nope, not doin’ it, that looked far too scary”. Then her friend tried, and this time I was watching from the rear of the rock and she couldn’t even do it, just sat shaking on the edge. Me and a blonde chap were watching and I asked if he had been on it already “not today, but I did it 2 years ago, my legs started shaking so much that I had to sit on the rock and looked like a girl”. Very promising feedback so far. He also said we just missed 6 base jumpers plunge off the edge, damn it!
Next thing I know a guy just walks around the edge and steps onto the boulder, like he was just strollin’ down the road. Then a few more people turned up and there was a little queue of people waiting to stand on the boulder. Ah man, peer pressure! They made it look so easy, and it should be, if there wasn’t a 1000m drop then I could stand on a rock a quarter of its size, but alas, and it was a total mind over matter situation.
Craig turned around to me and said “I’m gonna do it” which really surprised me as he is much more scared of heights than me and its always me first up on a vertigo inducing ledge. I didn’t think he’d be able to do it, he got major jelly legs back in Wales climbing a mountain that I thought was a walk in the park. But anyway, I waited at the photo op area and there was another guy before him, legs shaking like a leaf in a hurricane! God! Then Craig’s head popped around the corner and he made the leap onto the rock, my heart was pounding. He posed in one very still position, too scared to move, and then made it back across.
I had to do it for myself, I was chanting ‘mind over matter’ in my head and jumping across similar shaped rocks to prepare myself. But I am a very, very clumsy person and this was never going to be a good idea. Just before me a Russian couple took turns to pose on the boulder, cocky as hell, him crouching down with his arms swung around him in a gangsta pose, and her being the hussy and sticking her butt out in a rather provocative pose for an area like this.
Usually, in brochures, photos are very misleading, for example, the boulder looked small, but I presumed it must be bigger in person, and wider round the back. No, it was tiny, like a bloody pebble, with a curved top and covered in slippery gravel from people’s shoes. To get to it, you have to shimmy around a ledge, the only thing to hold onto is a 1 inch bolt poking out the rock wall. Then the ledge slants down, and the boulder curves up infront of it. It really is a tiny spot you have to get onto, like the size of a chair, before it slants too much and you risk slipping off.
So I thought i’d ask the Russian lady to stand by the edge incase I struggle shuffling back to safety and she said “yeah no problem, iz really eazy!!”. Well, she lied. I had been watching peoples different methods of getting on the boulder, and I decided slow movements were best, if I went too fast I’d probably misjudge the distance to lunge and fall over the edge.
So here I go, I took it nice and slow, too slow infact that i nervously stretched one foot onto the boulder, but then realised I had no momentum to get my other foot across without potentially slipping. Then I looked down. Bugger!! Neeeever look down! There was a crack all the way to ground level. Nope, I couldn’t go any further. So I just hovered doing the semi splits, with a 1000m drop below me. I do like to live on the wild side.
There were some people that clearly didn’t know what vertigo was, an Asian man, wearing what seemed to be chef whites, yes, you heard me right, started posing on the rock in a dead straight, arms tucked in pose, very regimental. Then as we were leaving he was doing yoga poses and jumps!! I half expected him to get out a wok and start cooking fried rice for his fellow hikers.
On the walk back I told Craig about my thoughts/dreams I’d been having. Turns out Craig’s been having similar dreams, but apparently with a much more vivid imagination. “I had a dream that you were standing on the rock and got rugby tackled by some guy, he was holding onto you as you both fell off the boulder, so I superman jumped down, punched the guy, and told you how we were going to land in the water safety. I showed you how to dive (mid flow through falling, really Craig?) you have to go head first because your forehead is the strongest point”, “then what happened”, “I dunno, I woke up”. The rest of the hike was spent arguing about how I thought head first was stupid, and clearly feet first was safest. But alas, we never found out because we survived the boulder and there wasn’t water below it, but sharp rocks.